The human voice is so deeply engrained within a wide range of media, it’s easy to forget that behind the chatter, laughing, and sound effects, there’s a real-life human.
From TV commercials and ad breaks to video games, training videos, and more, voice-over artists are the people who bring media to life. But how do they fall into this line of work, and how, exactly, do they find jobs?
Allow me to introduce Mony Raanan, founder of Voice Crafters, a multilingual voice-over agency and marketplace.
Hi, my name is Mony Raanan, and I’m the founder of Voice Crafters, a multilingual voice-over agency and marketplace.
Our network includes over 1,200 professional voice actors in more than 80 languages, and we provide professional voice-overs for commercials, training videos, video games, e-learning, and much, much more.
Voice Crafters has been around since 2009 and has produced thousands of voice-overs for brands like Google, HP, McDonald’s, American Express, United Airlines, and many, many more.
We pre-screen every voice actor to make sure they can self-record broadcast-quality audio and have at least five years of commercial experience.
Voice Crafters operated as an agency until early 2020, at which point we launched our online marketplace. This move essentially helped double our revenue to over $765,000 in 2022, with a bottom line of around 30%.
I lived in Los Angeles for about 12 years. During that time, I worked in sales while going to university. After having graduated from business school at Cal State Northridge, I worked for a software company in the healthcare industry. During that time, I also recorded an album and toured with my band whenever possible.
Working at the software company was obviously not as exciting or fulfilling as playing live, but I enjoyed being challenged with tasks that were totally new to me.
In hindsight, my employment there helped me refine my technical skills and, most importantly, taught me how to “speak” with programmers and developers in a language they understand.
When the band broke up, the lead guitarist and I decided to put a recording studio together and focused on learning the art of recording and producing. I met an old acquaintance who ran a post-production facility in Santa Monica. He told me that one of his partners was leaving and offered that we move our studio from my bedroom to his office.
That enabled him to offer his clients audio services in-house instead of outsourcing them to nearby studios, while we both gained a lot of knowledge and experience in audio post-production.
We would work on projects for MTV, VH-1, and BET, write music, and record voice-overs for commercials that would run in the US. This went on for several years until the amount of work dwindled, and we closed the studio.
Around that time, I returned to Israel (which is where I’m from originally). I started working for an e-learning company as a module developer. The idea of starting a voice-over agency came to me when I realized the earning potential of voice actors who recorded audio for the learning modules we were working on.
I didn’t write a business plan, but what I did realize is that, apart from e-learning, there are many applications to voice-overs, like TV commercials, IVR systems, corporate videos, video games, kiosks, audiobooks, political ads, inflight announcements, and so much more.
The need for this product across industries meant that there was a lot of demand and that this business would be able to sustain an economic downturn if run successfully.
I joined forces with a friend who helped build our first website. Initially, we weren’t really sure of the direction. The website promoted audio work, and we started sourcing local talent to add to our roster.
The first 18 months were hard. I had no contacts and very few prospects, but I kept pushing myself to promote the business and put myself out there. My partner was unfortunately not able to continue working because the business wasn’t pulling enough money.
After a while, I was fortunate to land a tech company as a major client, for whom I produced voice-overs in various languages for online campaigns. Slowly, I began to accumulate local and international customers, and things started taking off from there.
Voice Crafters went through several phases before it became what it is today. Initially, it functioned as a voice-over recording studio, scheduling slots to record local talent for various projects.
I needed a way to leverage the business, so once I understood that I could source freelance, professional talent from around the world, I was able to complete more projects every month. Talent would record at their studio, I would edit and master the audio, perform post-production tasks where needed, and submit work to clients.
I actually did this for many years, but the job would often become overwhelming and stressful. Since audio post-work usually comes at the end of the production process, the deadlines are super tight, and I would often find myself juggling 10-20 projects at a time.
In 2019, I finally decided to do what I should have done much sooner, and that is to create an online marketplace so that the entire process would be handled online.
I was very hesitant to do this for several reasons: I knew the development costs for building a system so complex would be high, and when taking the business online, I wouldn’t be able to charge as much as I do offline. Nevertheless, I knew this was the only way I could really scale up.
I worked with my developer and graphic designer to build a workflow that resembled Upwork and other freelance sites. This wasn’t about reinventing the wheel, but we did need to account for situations that are unique to the voice-over industry.
I wanted to put a product out there, knowing that despite all of the planning, designing, and redesigning – there would still be changes.
The main takeaway from how we did things is that we didn’t wait for things to be perfect. As Voltaire (and others) said – “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” It’s tempting to dig deeper and attempt to start with a better product. However, the best thing to do is to put out something functional and collect as much feedback as possible.
We created an automated email asking clients why they opened a project but never funded it, and we would use the negative feedback to improve our UI. We welcome it to this day because it gives us a better idea of where the customer pains are when using our product, and we use that to make improvements and reduce friction.
Our initial quote form is a good example of how things evolved.
The process would start with the client selecting voice actors to get quotes from, and then returning to the home page, where the quote form lived.
Besides going back to the home page being confusing, the user would have access to all the links on the home page (they could simply scroll up and down the page), which meant that they could just as easily jump out of the form.
The signup was at the end of the form because the thinking was that the user would not bounce at the signup page after having gone through the entire form.
The process today starts with the user signing up.
The idea is that we want users who sign up and don’t complete the form to enter an email campaign funnel that incentivizes them to open a project.
Additionally, the quote form is not part of the home page. It’s a much cleaner, link- and distraction-free page that walks the user through the steps of gathering information before advising them that they’ll receive quotes in their inbox.
During the process of improving our UI, I also consulted with friends and clients, asking them to open projects and getting their feedback on how user-friendly the platform was.
One of the most important lessons I learned in this process is removing yourself from the equation. When you design a product and someone points out the flaws in it, the instinctive reaction is to protect your ideas and dismiss their opinion, because it’s negative.
It’s very important to be ego-free and objectively think whether they represent an actual pain that is common to other users or not.
In time I really strived to get as much negative feedback as I could, because an angry client helps improve the platform a lot more than a happy one.
Our launch wasn’t a spectacular feat of marketing magic. We already had about 200-300 daily users and around 10 quote forms filled before actually transitioning to a marketplace.
My main concern at the time was that we would “lose” our regular clients to the online platform and that they would order voice recordings at a lower profit margin.
However, the clients we work with offline enjoy the hands-on service we provide, so to this day, most prefer and value that over working through the platform, so there wasn’t a conflict in that regard.
The first version that we released was confusing to clients, particularly the quote form and the backend client interface used to manage projects.
A friend of mine who is a UI expert helped me redesign and rethink the process of choosing talent and funneling the user to a much cleaner form. To this day, we keep thinking about how we can make the experience as frictionless as possible for users – both clients and talent (I believe making the interface as intuitive as possible for both is equally important).
One of the first concepts we learned in “real-time” was transactional emails. When building the system, my developer and I weren’t aware that Gmail isn’t designed to handle tens or hundreds of system-generated emails sent to users.
In the beginning, everything worked well, but a few days later – emails were suddenly not being sent, and we had no clue why.
It took a lot of investigating before we found out that we need to use a dedicated service for transactional emails to users (like new user messages, forgot password, etc.) – so that our emails would not end up in users’ spam folders or not be sent altogether.
The first 5-6 months were full of similar experiences. We learned new things and tracked customer behavior through Hotjar recordings to keep fine-tuning the interface again and again until the majority of users (both clients and voice actors) could intuitively understand how to navigate the system.
First and foremost, our talent is so good that many clients simply come back to work with them on the platform, so carefully vetting voice actors turned out to be a very good investment as far as client retention.
We monitor a lot of the activity between our users and try to identify issues that clients experience. When we do, we proactively engage with them, and I think it’s that personal approach, while not scalable, that really helps customers feel they are in good hands.
A tool I really love using nowadays is Sendspark, which we bought a subscription to through Appsumo.
What’s cool about this tool is that you can record a video of the interface and the steps to follow to solve a customer’s issue. You can then embed the video in the email and send it to them. It’s super helpful.
However, it can also be used for simply thanking a new customer for making an order, for example. This personal, non-scalable approach ultimately helps create fans or ambassadors for your business, who will ultimately recommend it to others.
To scale the business, we reinvest our income primarily through link-building and content marketing.
We run an email marketing campaign through Mailerlite. Our email sequences target customers based on their position in the buying cycle (for example, users who abandoned the quote form, users who initiated a project but never funded it, users who abandoned the checkout page, etc).
Two other marketing tactics we implemented are:
Website translation. Since our main offering is multilingual voiceovers, it makes sense to translate our site to several major languages, as it would be easier to compete for higher rankings in non-English speaking countries. We’ve translated the site to Spanish, and we have three other languages in Beta.
Badges. We plan to implement badges that voice actors can place on their site, which will point to their profiles on the site and provide us with more backlinks. The idea is to gain more clients this way that would work with additional voice actors for future projects.
Books I recommend:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Platform Revolution by Geoffrey Parker
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave
Podcasts I listen to (when I have time):
My Wife Quit Her Job
The Tony Robbins Podcast
The Blogging Millionaire
Our online platform’s customer base is growing, and online sales currently drive about 50% of our overall revenue.
Users who initiate a project on our site are 37% likely to fund it.
18.5% of our customers are returning customers.
I would like to bring the last figure to 25% through our drip campaigns by the end of the year.
I would like to bring online sales to 90% and limit offline sales to our older clients.
This year I plan to increase traffic substantially through content and email marketing, as well as site translation and affiliate marketing.
The goal is to bring our current revenue to 100K per month and double that next year.
Very often we fall in love with a business idea without thinking if there’s a market for it or whether our business model will actually attract buyers.
Understand that your final product can be very different from what you envisioned after having listened to users and fine-tuning it.
Be ready and willing to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. Be ready to fail and start over. There’s absolutely no shame in failing.
Take the plunge. Sometimes over-planning puts us in “analysis-paralysis mode,” and we end up not doing anything.
Don’t be afraid of competition. Find a way to differentiate your offering and pitch the hell out of it!